The United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has recently and successfully tested its persistent close air support (PCAS) prototype system. This system was tested on the United States Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft. The most recent test, which took place near Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, marked the system’s initial debut on a United States Air Force platform. With 50 successful attacks made by troops coming out from a position of defense (also known as a ‘sortie’), the test demonstrated that a joint terminal attack controller (JTAC) on the ground is capable of commanding an airstrike with three simple clicks on a tablet.
During the testing which took place near Nellis Air Force Base, ten sorties featured live-fire weapons engagements utilizing a combination of GPS- and laser-guided munitions. Data sharing between the JTAC and pilot was enabled through PCAS tactical datalinks in order to determine the timed release of precision-guided munitions.
"Close air support and similar operations rely on teamwork, and we have shown that a flexible architecture and extensible technology toolsets are key to making groundbreaking improvements in air-ground coordination,”said Dan Patt, the program manager of DARPA.
"These and other test results suggest PCAS-like approaches have the potential to provide an unprecedented synchronized understanding of the active battlefield."
The PCAS program is intended to offer more accurate, prompt, and easy air-ground coordination for close air support (CAS) as well as other missions. DARPA’s PCAS program strives to create a system which enables the sharing of real-time weapons-systems data and situational awareness, simultaneously with the support of technologies compatible with practically any aircraft.
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